Quilts of Valor Foundation began in 2003 with a dream — literally.
Founder Catherine Roberts’ son Nat was deployed in Iraq and she had a dream that was "as vivid as real life." In the dream Roberts saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling, she described, was one of utter despair. In her dream Roberts could see the demons of war clustered around, dragging down the service member. Then, as if viewing a movie, Roberts says she saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt.
"His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being," she said.
Thus the Quilts of Valor Foundation started.
On Thursday, The Missouri River chapter of the Quilts of Valor hosted a quilting ceremony at the Eagles Club honoring selected veterans who have been touched by war with a handmade quilt.
Those honored were decorated service members living in Stark County and included an Army scout sniper from the Vietnam war with 5 Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, a Marine radio operator with 7 combat tours and 12 medals from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and a Purple Heart Korean War veteran who shared a funny story about owing the government 10 days of service after an administration error let him leave the war early.
The veterans honored were:
Levi Long, Sergeant First Class (SFC), United State Army;
David Logosz, Sergeant (Sgt), United States Army;
Travis Andersen, Petty Officer Second Class (PO2), United States Navy;
James B. Miller, Jr., Staff Sergeant (SSgt), United States Marine Corps;
Kenneth Lefor, Sergeant (Sgt), United States Army;
Joseph Herold, Corporal (Cpl.), United States Army;
Ryan Diede, Staff Sergeant (SSG), North Dakota National Guard;
Art Warner, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), United States Army.
While the new non-profit organization is continuing the growth, the eight quilts given to veterans on Thursday was the highest single event number to date.
Veterans of all ages came together with friends and family at the Eagle Club to receive their quilts, each symbolizing the veterans service in war. Veterans awarded underwent a lengthy nomination process ensuring that they met the criteria before being wrapped with their very own quilt to cheers from the crowd.
Arlene Meissel, the group leader of the Missouri River Quilts of Valor, said giving the quilts to the veterans is a once-in-a-lifetime award, but is designed to give thanks and honor those that fought to protect the United States.
“It’s really to honor our veterans,” Meissel said. “Tonight is the biggest with eight (veterans.) It’s an honor. To be able to acknowledge these veterans and their services and thank them for their service to the United States.”
After starting the event with the pledge of allegiance, Meissel gave a speech highlighting the service of the veterans in attendance before each were called to the stand and have their quilts placed on them by their families. At the end, each of the veterans sat in unity near the podium with their quilts proudly being shown.
Meissel said the city of Dickinson has continued to be one of her favorite locations with the awards based on the amount of community support and sheer number of highly decorated veterans the city has.
“Dickinson has been one of our strongest supporters of veterans,” she said. “This is our largest group yet. Our first award was in Dickinson in June, we had four veterans … in total, this event has brought (quilt totals) to about 20. ”
The Quilts of Valor foundation originated in 2003 in Seaford, Delaware. The non-profit has continued to expand throughout the past 17 years as seen with the Missouri River Quilts of Valor, which was established in February.
Meissel said combat veterans are qualified for the award, but must be nominated for the award by family, friends, other veterans, veteran organizations or even themselves. The veterans must then match certain requirements before being given a quilt which can be found at their website at qovf.org.
Currently, the oldest person to receive a quilt from the Missouri River Quilts is a 102-year-old World War II Navy Veteran who saw service in the Pacific. However, many veterans honored in the years since have come from an array of conflicts and wars including World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, The Gulf War, Bosnian Conflict, The Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan and other qualifying conflicts and actions.
For more information on the Missouri River Quilts of Valor, contact Arlene Meissel at 701-471-6147, or visit qovf.org.